Colin Kaepernick has branded the NFL’s support for anti-racism protests at the start of the season “propaganda”.
The free agent also accused the league of “blackballing” his former San Francisco 49ers team-mate Eric Reid.
In 2016, Kaepernick started the trend of kneeling for the national anthem ahead of matches as he protested racial injustice, with Reid following suit.
Both men are free agents, with Kaepernick having occupied that status since 2017 and Reid having been released by the Carolina Panthers in March.
“While the NFL runs propaganda about how they care about Black Life, they are still actively blackballing Eric Reid for fighting for the Black community,” Kaepernick posted on social media on Sunday.
“Eric set 2 franchise records last year, and is one of the best defensive players in the league.”
Reid, 28, was vocal in speaking out against racism during his time with the Panthers, a period in which he set franchise defensive records with 130 tackles and four sacks in 2019.
Meanwhile, quarterback Kaepernick, 32, has maintains he is “still ready” to play in the NFL, despite having filed a grievance against owners in October 2017 due to his belief that teams were intentionally not hiring him because of his protests. That grievance came to a settlement in February 2019, as did a similar collusion case filed on behalf of Reid.
In May 2018, the NFL introduced a rule that stated franchises would be fined if players kneeled during the national anthem, but the league made a U-turn in June this year, saying protest during the national anthem would be allowed.
This season, end zones at venues across the league will show the slogans “End Racism” and “It Takes All Of Us”, while players can wear stickers on their helmet featuring the names of victims of racism.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May sparked months of protests in the United States, and demonstrations continued during NFL’s opening weekend this month.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Houston Texans on Thursday marked the first fixture since the coronavirus pandemic began, and fewer than a quarter of the stadium’s seats were in use.
However, some crowd members booed as players linked arms in a ‘moment of unity’ ahead of kick-off.
The only franchise to permit fans attendance on Sunday was the Jacksonville Jaguars, who – along with a number of other teams – stayed in the locker room during the singing of the national anthem.
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